by Shane O'Neill

Android May Lose Netbook Battle to Windows, but Win the War

Jun 16, 20093 mins
Data Center

Google's Android will struggle against the Windows netbook of today, but is well-suited for the netbook/smartphone of tomorrow.

I recently wrote a blog post about how Google’s mobile OS Android will be a welcome addition to netbooks, but has little chance of success against Windows.

But when I think about it long-term, I’m not so sure about that.

I don’t think Android is an immediate threat to Windows XP/Windows 7 on netbooks as they stand today. I’m still dubious that all those Windows reliant consumers will buy a PC, be it a netbook, smartbook, playbook, textbook, coloring book, that runs a Linux-based OS that so far has only worked on phones.

I completely agree that Android will run well on non-smartphone devices such as netbooks and smartbooks. There have been enough thumbs up tests at electronics shows and announcements by PC makers that they have plans for Android to convince me that Google will soon be a PC player.

But it’s not as if Android will explode out of the gates on netbooks and take down Windows. It will probably take a few years as the PC market gives way to smaller and cheaper netbooks followed by some sort of smartphone/netbook hybrid. Then, Android will be in a sweet position as Microsoft makes adjustments to shrink Windows or jumpstart Windows Mobile.

It’s hard to pinpoint when this will happen. Sales forecasts for PC sales are grim as netbook sales are predicted to keep rising. Research firm Gartner projects that worldwide PC shipments will decline by 12 percent to 257 million units in 2009. Netbooks, on the other hand, are predicted to triple in sales over the next four years and ABI Research predicts that by 2012 more netbooks will be running Linux than Windows.

Android seems best positioned for quick success in the out-of-nowhere category called “smartbooks.” So-called smartbooks are cheaper netbooks that will run Linux instead of Windows and mobile phone chips with processing cores from ARM Holdings instead of Intel’s Atom chips.

“Smartbooks” seems like a made up category by vendors to avoid competing directly with Windows and Intel in the established netbook space. (Microsoft is not porting Windows to work on ARM-based microprocessors, so Windows will not run on smartbooks.)

Yet smartbooks could be a winner on price (possibly as low as $200) and expose the Android/ARM combo to a wider audience. To be a player in both the smartphone and mini laptop spaces is a nice place to be, and Android is smack dab in the middle.

Eventually, much like with the smartphone now, users of the netbook/smartphone of the future won’t care so much about the operating system, as long as it works.

What do you think? Is Android in a better position for the merging of smartphones and netbooks than Windows?

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